Popular culture, social media, and our peers are all embracing a trend in home gardening across the country (though few of these gardens are as radical as Ron Finley’s median-turned-vegetable-garden project in Los Angeles). A guest for dinner last night mentioned that “even Oprah is on trend now,” having planted her own garden. Here in North Alabama, the home garden is hardly a trend. Most people grow at least a couple of tomato and pepper plants every summer. And if you take a drive down one of our many county roads, you’re likely to see large swaths of lawn devoted to food, with neat rows of summer vegetables stretching over red blankets of Alabama clay.
I’ve had a garden since I moved into my house in 2006. Putting it in might take only a weekend, but the cultivation takes years. However, it’s the week-to-week management that becomes difficult. When temperatures reach 98 degrees in the shade (and stays there for days on end) keeping up with the insects, weeds, the harvest, and watering becomes quite the challenge. Making time becomes stealing time. This is why my generous fall garden was still in the ground in late May, every kale or broccoli plant flowered and well on its way to seed.
On Monday, Sara wrote her thoughts on fashion and designing for real people with different body types. We’ve written before ‘On Beauty’ and the comeback of pin-up style. Even though media representations might make you feel differently, the fact is that women come in so many beautiful shapes and sizes. This is a deeply important and significant subject, and will be a recurrent theme for us this year. Our journal is a platform to share our views and opinions on any matter of the body (and mind), and we always encourage you to share your own stories and thoughts in the comments section.
It’s the New Year (10 days in already), a time when many of us reflect on our life in the past year, resolve to find peace in each day, and to look ahead to new goals and achievements. 99.9% of the time, weight loss is a top goal for resolutions in the New Year.
Diet. Eat salad. Lose weight. Be skinny.
This year saw our Journal take a more structured tone and we devoted particular days to particular topics. Wednesday’s became Recipe Wednesday and we worked to get ourselves organized and cook. EVERY WEEK. It was quite a feat of organization since we also run the production office, online store, design, pay bills, and as I mentioned on Monday, also manage this Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook. It’s a lot of content. Erin joined the team full-time early in the year, Sara continues to make this stuff worth reading, we planted the garden (again), and we got cooking.
My biscuit recipe made it into the Wall Street Journal thanks to Charlotte Druckman. (More on Charlotte’s terrific new book Skirt Steak in the coming months.)
Everything from roasted potatoes to strawberries and Prosecco (sometimes in the same meal) have been flavored by my rosemary plants; I have been known to make flower arrangements (and wreaths) from the fragrant leaves and drink rosemary infused tea at the same time. And while I use rosemary year-round, this evergreen bush is readily available in the deep of winter, when all the other herbs have died back. Perhaps for this reason, there is something about the flavor of rosemary that just feels like the holidays.
Rosemary flavored vodka has recently become a bit of a staple amongst our friends. It’s easy to make and looks absolutely beautiful when you include a fresh sprig for garnish. It’s been tested and approved in a modified screwdriver: just mix 1 ounce of rosemary vodka with the juice from one orange and serve over ice. Rosemary vodka is also delicious with a bit of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic or in your favorite Bloody Mary recipe, but the possibilities are endless. If you have a great idea for a rosemary cocktail, be sure to let us know in the comments section.
Make extra of this easy infusion for your upcoming holiday gifting.
Homemade in three days—can’t beat that.
I have been somewhat of an herbalist since I was a small child. Plant names and properties have always come as second nature. While I struggle with the names and faces of people (sometimes people I have just met can go undistinguished an hour later), I have a recall for plants that sometimes baffles. It is almost like I have a memory older than myself when it comes to leaves and weeds.
Like Juliette of the Herbs (see the clip at the bottom of this post), I have planted many a garden—across the globe—and while each garden has its own story, every garden I planted has included rosemary. After a brief “settling in period,” this elegant (and evergreen) shrub grows tall and wide in the Alabama climate. There is an Old Wives’ Tale about perennial plants: “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps.” It’s true. I have two rosemary shrubs in my home that I took as small diggings from the garden of my last house—our old production office at Lovelace Crossroads. Five years later, those bushes thrive and have spiced many a lunch, dinner, and, yes, cocktail. Come back this afternoon for our Rosemary Infused Vodka recipe .
Apples, sweet potatoes, autumn squash, turnips, rutabagas, leeks, and greens of every shade—I await the fall garden and all of its bounty each year with as much eagerness as the changing of the leaves and the relief from blistering Alabama summers. Root vegetables are at their prime this time of year and their heartiness is a beautiful accompaniment to braised meats. A meal of slow-cooked beef or pork alongside a simple roast of beets, potatoes, and turnips is my way of welcoming the season. Autumn squash, with its wonderful versatility, may find its way into a bisque or pie. And no fall meal is complete without a serving of greens—collards, mustards, turnips, kale, cabbage, spinach, etc.—served braised, sautéed, or dressed in salad.
When you are raised in a community with a large farming population, the seasons take on a deeper meaning than a simple change in temperature. It is true that for agriculture, to everything there is a season –every vegetable has a growing season, every time of the year has beautiful moments and challenges to overcome. For most families tied to the land – much like the earliest humans – the sky is a clock and a calendar; the sun’s path across the sky, the length of each day, the location of sunrise and sunset – these things are actual signs of things to come and preparations that must be made. So, the upcoming Autumn Equinox will be a time of reflection upon the year’s successes and failures and a moment of celebration of the harvest cycle.
There are two equinoxes each year – one in March and the second in September. Technically, these are the days when the sun shines directly upon the Earth’s equator and the length of the day and the night is roughly equal. The Autumn equinox symbolically marks the beginning of autumn and the end of summer. From this moment, temperatures typically drop and the days begin to get shorter than the evenings. The sun begins its shift toward the south and the birds and butterflies follow it in their migrations. For us, September and October mean that it’s time for broccoli, greens, root vegetables, and apples. It also means that summer crops should have been stored and put up for the coming winter.
Last week, during a photo shoot at my house for our new Indigo + Carmine pieces, my son Zach took time from his busy day of new fatherhood and running his growing catering company to make us lunch: a simple, delicious pizza piled with tomatoes.
This summer has been hard on my garden. Many of my herbs have simply withered away, and my tomatoes have been scorched in the harsh sun. Between the drought and my absence in travels, I’m surprised (and thankful) I’ve managed to gather a few heirloom tomatoes.
A few weeks ago, we took to the streets of Florence to spread wildflower seeds guerrilla-style. We tossed our homemade seed “bombs”, seed encapsulated clay balls, into alleys and onto vacant areas – hoping to add more color and beauty to our community.
With the amount of rain that we have been receiving lately, every growing thing has been sprouting up and up toward the sky. Yesterday, retraced our steps to see if our dispersed wildflowers were making progress. There were no full blooms yet; however, we are starting to see small dots of the color purple in Olivia’s yard.
Living in a community that has an abundance of farmland and agriculture, one might not think that ‘guerrilla gardening’ is exactly required. However, like any community, The Shoals is dotted with the occasional abandoned lot and neglected space in our downtown area. And we are of the opinion that most any space can benefit from the addition of colorful flowers.
During my visit to Berlin for the Hello Etsy conference, I noticed an abundance of green spaces and gardens that were situated on vacant lots throughout the city.